Illustrated Road to Serfdom

I just happened to stumble across this illustrated Road to Serfdom, reproduced from a booklet published by General Motors. As graphic novels go, it’s a bit of a letdown. As historical curiosities go, it’s kind of intriguing.

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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7 Responses to Illustrated Road to Serfdom

  1. Lance says:

    It seems to be saying that all “planning” leads to Hitler.

    Also the art work looks to have been done in about an hour.

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Does the graphic novel version do damage to Hayek’s book? Historically, for criticism of economics in the U.S., it’s wide of the mark. It’s historically inaccurate from page 1 — or, maybe more to the argument, it portrays steps that the U.S. did not even consider, let alone take, between World War II at today.

    I know conservative economists like to claim Hayek stumbled into some grand idea here. It looks to me to be the sorts of ideas one gets reading U.S. history portrayed by Peter Marshall or David Barton. If you start out with cloudy lenses, go to the drugstore instead of the library, and fail to pay attention to anything you read, observe or hear on the way, you may not achieve enlightenment on a complex subject.

  3. Matty says:

    Questions.
    What was a car company doing publishing political propagnda, was this a lucrative sideline, a genuine fear they would be nationalised or what?

    Is the storyline meant to be something that has happened (where?) or that will happen?

    On a related point how can anyone take seriously the claim that economic planning must lead to a one party state when much of western Europe managed for decades with high levels of government control in the economy while remaining democratic?

  4. James Hanley says:

    Matty,

    I suspect it was an ideologically-based broadside against national planning. Even if Ford wasn’t worried about its company being nationalized, broad-scale national planning could limit overall productivity, harming it’s market. And Ford’s top execs may have just hated socialism so much they didn’t want to see any of it around, period. That’s my seat-of-the-pants guess, for whatever its worth.

    On your second point, I think we have to take into account when Hayek wrote Road to Serfdom, which was in response to Naziism and Stalinism, but before western Europe successfully balanced democracy and planning for decades. I recently read an interview, from late in Hayek’s life, where he said he wasn’t writing a prediction so much as a warning about what could happen. Whether that’s a bit of a cop-out I can’t say, but I could see why someone would take it that way. My belief is that that’s actually the appropriate way to read the book, whatever Hayek’s original intent was. There’s some good stuff in there, but obviously the totalitarian outcome is not inevitable.

  5. James Hanley says:

    Ed,

    Well, it’s been years since I read Road to Serfdom (but I’m half inspired to start reading chapter by chapter and discussing it here–only half-inspired so far), so I don’t really remember all the details. But the graphic version is so minimalistic, so lacking nuance, that I can only hope it does damage too the real thing, or the real thing is pretty dreadful, which I don’t remember it being (even if it was, perhaps, overstated).

    A question though: is it possible that the “steps the U.S. did not even consider” were not considered because we “considered” (at least some eminent folks advocated–I want to avoid the question of how much serious public consideration we had of them) but rejected some of the first steps along the way? E.g., Truman advocated a national health plan, but never got it; J.K. Galbraith (iirc) advocated extensive national economic planning, but we never got it.

    That’s not to argue that we would have slid toward totalitarianism if we had adopted those things (I assume we would have been more or less like Britain; but then again, given the fascist-leaning character of American right-wingers, who knows?), but just to ask if the reason we never even got around to considering some things was because it’s a step-wise process and we never took the first steps?

  6. Ed Darrell says:

    I don’t consider national health care to be socialism, if we use Hayek’s definition, with emphasis on “planning” the outcomes. In the west (that is, the non-communist blocs), we’ve avoided planning health care outcomes and that has been one of the chief high-wire acts of national health care systems. Costs depend on the illnesses and injuries that strike, since the costs and outputs are not planned. To the extent a national health system trends socialist — like France, for example — it minces Hayek’s arguments completely. None of them have ended in totalitarianism, and most simply improve health care and health for the entire population, without rationing of the sort we use in the U.S. (50 million Americans simply excluded from the system).

    But pick any other industry. Coal mining, auto making, television manufacturing, television broadcasting — in none of those industries did the U.S. come close to flirting with nationalizing, nor with setting production quotas, prices and wages. Even Truman’s attempt to nationalize steel, to stop the strike, was driven by the need to get steel out to the rest of the U.S. to fuel the post-World War II booms.

    I think Galbraith largely missed the boat on this one.

    It is possible, I think, to make an argument that the U.S engaged in some socialist practices in a few industries — but in each case, the socialism supported free enterprise and defense of the West against the communists. Wool subsidies, to pick one classic and long-standing example, were designed almost solely to guarantee enough wool to clothe the Army in case of a conflict. Eisenhower — no socialist, he, despite Ezra Taft Benson’s bizarre complaints — planned to win a conflict in or near the U.S.

    Can we really call defense planning “socialism?”

  7. James Hanley says:

    Can we really call defense planning “socialism?”

    No, it’s surely some other “ism.” I’d settle for nationalism, but the way we do it in the U.S. seems to perpetually verge on a yet more sinister “ism.”

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